There is no perfect safety: Security is always a trade-off

One of those basic principles that really seems to be highlighted these days is this idea that there is no perfect security.
There is no perfect safety safety and security are always a trade-off.
We always have to sacrifice something in order to get some measure of safety and security.
But we can never get to 100% safety or 0% danger.
You can never get all the way.
You would have to keep sacrificing more and more and more to reduce the risk even further until eventually the only way to get a perfect level of security would to have nothing left to protect.
You know, if you are dead, then there’s no risk of contracting a disease.
If you have no money, there’s no risk in losing any money.
And if you simply have nothing at all, then you just can’t lose anything.
So that’s perfect security.
Perfect security is having nothing to lose.
But in any situation in which there is something that could be lost, there can never be perfect protection of it.
And I think this is very difficult to accept, because it’s a very uncomfortable thing.
It’s like we have to accept some level of risk at all times.
And what this means in this situation is we have to somehow accept a certain level of danger and choose to live with that.
And I think it’s very unclear right now what is the correct level of danger to accept, what is the correct level of safety and security to live with.
Now, this really hit me yesterday when I saw that in my city, Toronto, many of the parks are being closed in order to prevent people from spending time together.
And when we look at each of these measures one by one, a lot of them can seem perfectly reasonable.
And in fact, almost any measure could be seen as a reasonable protection.
If we were to buy a bunch of food and supplies and stay completely indoors with absolutely no human contact for a few weeks, if everybody in the world did this, then the contagion would disappear.
I found this to be an interesting thought experiment that I heard, that if everybody in the world simply remained motionless, two metres apart from each other, for two weeks, the entire contagion would vanish.
Of course, this is getting into the imaginary world of perfect security and perfect safety, where we can imagine perfectly removing a threat.
And yet it seems like it’s simply not possible for this to happen in reality.
Even if we took isolation even more seriously, it’s simply not possible to have perfect isolation.
Basic services still have to be maintained to keep civilization running over those two weeks, and there’s no way to completely remove contact.
But because the fear is so strong, because there’s so much anxiety, and naturally a desire to ease that anxiety by just feeling safe, everybody, it seems, as looking for a way to feel more safe.
So we’re now taking measures that are more and more extreme in order to reduce risk even further.
But the first level of risk reduction is a very low sacrifice, a very low cost.
You know, just maybe don’t shake hands, you know, avoid the most crowded gatherings, you know, and then you can start to make small sacrifices.
Oh, wash your hands more often.
You start to make these little sacrifices, you can bring the wrists down a lot.
But as you want to keep going down further, and say well, no, lower, lower transmission rate, less risk, less risk, less risk, the further you want to bring down that risk, or the closer you want to bring your security and safety as close as possible to 100%, you have to make bigger and bigger sacrifices in order to just make a small reduction in risk.
Now, no, don’t play in the playground.
Don’t go to the park.
Just stay inside.
The sacrifices become bigger for smaller and smaller gains in security.
Now, everything I’m saying doesn’t mean that these measures should not be taken.
Because that decision is based on all the factors of what is the damage from the contagion itself, what are the risks, what’s the overall effect.
That’s very difficult to judge, of course.
And if the danger is severe enough, then it does warrant taking extreme sacrifices in order to protect against it.
But my idea that seems to be clear today is that it always has to be seen as a trade-off.
There’s no, you know, “Oh, whatever it takes for total security.” You can never do that, because total security is total sacrifice of everything.
Somewhere there is a balance point where the sacrifices that we make in order to be safe from the threat, they must be less than the threat itself.
If we start to make changes and make sacrifices that end up being more severe than the danger we’re protecting against, then that’s the classic case of overreaction.
Have we reached that point? I don’t know.
I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts.

#safety #perfectsafety #security

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